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Gravel & Shea PC

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Gravel & Shea To Offer Paid Parental Leave


Gravel & Shea will now offer four weeks of paid parental leave to any eligible employee upon the birth or adoption of a baby. Employees become eligible after working at the firm for one year.

In compliance with Vermont’s parental and family leave law, Gravel & Shea provides up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to new parents, to be used at any time within the first twelve months after the birth or adoption of a baby. The firm also offered, and continues to offer, self-funded short-term disability coverage that employees can use to cover the loss of income during an extended leave period. Under the firm’s new paid parental leave policy, parents will be able to take four weeks of paid leave during the 12-week statutory leave period.

Paid parental leave is uncommon among Vermont companies, and Gravel & Shea saw an opportunity to be a leader in the community by recognizing the realities of caring for a new child and the importance of family.

“We wanted to support our employees in creating the lives outside the office that sustain them for the important work they do inside the office,” said Bob Rushford, Managing Partner of Gravel & Shea. “We really do think of Gravel & Shea as a big family. When we find great people, we want them here to stay.”

U.S. District Court Grants Summary Judgment for Amtrak in Wrongful Death Case

Amtrak and NECR 2

Gravel & Shea attorneys Bob Hemley and Navah Spero successfully obtained the dismissal of a wrongful death case against Amtrak and the New England Central Railway in U.S. District Court. On June 20, 2016, Judge William Sessions awarded summary judgment to all defendants on all claims in a 25-page decision.

In their complaint, Plaintiffs asserted that negligence on the part of Amtrak and New England Central Railway had resulted in the death of a 15-year old boy who was struck by an Amtrak passenger train while crossing private tracks near his home in Vernon, Vermont. Plaintiffs claimed that Amtrak failed to blow the train’s horn long or loud enough and failed to brake the train to avoid the collision. Their complaints against New England Central Railway related to sight lines and warnings at the track.

Hemley and Spero argued that the Plaintiff had failed to present evidence sufficient to allow any reasonable jury to conclude that the death was the defendants’ responsibility. The case involved complex issues of railroad practice, analysis of train movement and an investigation into the boy’s behavior. In finding for the Defendants, the Court analyzed expert testimony from both parties and relied heavily on factual evidence, including a video recording of the incident made by the camera on the front of the train as well as measurements of the train speed and location that the train activated the emergency brake. The recording showed the train blowing its horn multiple times for 21 of the 30 seconds prior to the incident, and measurements indicated the train could not have slowed quickly enough to avoid a collision after the boy came into sight. In light of that and other evidence, the Court found that no reasonable juror could have determined the death was Amtrak’s or New England Central Railway’s responsibility.

The granting of summary judgment in a personal injury case is rare, but in this case, based on the arguments presented, the Court determined it was warranted.

Gravel & Shea Recognized As Leading Law Firm by Chambers & Partners

Chambers Ranking + Partners

Chambers & Partners issued its annual rankings of law firms and lawyers by state, with Gravel & Shea once again recognized as one of the top firms in Vermont. As a credible source of guidance for more than 25 years, Chambers & Partners assesses law firms on technical legal ability, professional conduct, client service, commercial astuteness, diligence, commitment and other qualities most valued by clients. Individual lawyers are ranked (in their practice area(s)) on the basis of their legal knowledge and experience, their ability, their effectiveness and their client-service. The Chambers USA guide is widely used by firms and businesses to provide quality counsel and to provide referrals.

Gravel & Shea received the top ranking (Band 1) in three areas in the Chambers USA Guide and one in the Chambers High Net Worth Guide. In Chambers USA, the featured practice areas are: Corporate/Commercial, Real Estate and Litigation: General Commercial. Partner Heather Rider Hammond was also recognized for her labor and employment practice.


“With an impressive track record across a broad range of business law matters, areas of excellence include M&A, finance, taxation and construction law.”

Recognized Attorneys:
Peter S. Erly
William A. Mason, IV

Litigation: General Commercial

Gravel & Shea has “a top-tier litigation practice covering an impressive range of contentious commercial matters, including intellectual property disputes, trust litigation and general business disputes.”

Recognized Attorneys:
Matthew B. Byrne
Robert B. Hemley

Real Estate

Gravel & Shea has a “prominent practice covering a broad range of real estate matters, including transactional matters and development work with respect to residential, commercial or mixed-use properties.”

Recognized Attorneys:
Timothy M. Eustace
Michelle N. Farkas
Robert H. Rushford

Chambers & Partners also recognized Gravel & Shea Partner Jeanne C. Blackmore as a leading Vermont attorney in its inaugural High Net Worth Guide, aimed at providing recommendations on the world’s best lawyers to the international private wealth market. Both Jeanne Blackmore as an individual attorney and Gravel & Shea as a firm are featured in the Guide.

Jeanne Blackmore

Jeanne Blackmore joined Gravel & Shea in 2009 after practicing for over ten years in Ernst & Young’s National Office tax practice. Jeanne focuses her practice on tax and estate planning, probate and trust administration, and general business taxation.

In recognizing Gravel & Shea as a Band 1 firm, the High Net Worth Guide states, “Gravel & Shea guides clients in estate planning matters, drafting wills and trusts, estate and gift tax minimization and charitable planning. The firm also handles trust and estate litigation, representing beneficiaries, executors and administrators.” In addition, the firm has a Family Business Succession Planning Group, which represents families in the sale of businesses, buy-sell and life insurance planning, defective trust planning and other multi-generational business succession planning.

From Chambers High Net Worth Guide and Chambers USA.

Gravel & Shea Participates in Spelling Bee!

Gravel & Shea won second place at the 20th annual Zonta Club Spelling Bee, held on May 19, 2016 at Champlain College. Attorneys Petra Halsema, Pauline Law and Navah Spero participated in this fundraiser for the Single Parents Program at Champlain College, which provides support for single parents so they may successfully complete their college education. The trio faced stiff competition from over ten other teams and lived up to their motto, “Lawyers Who Can Spell!”

Gravel & Shea Sponsors the Vermont Women’s Fund

Vermont Women's Fund - Change the Story

Gravel & Shea was a proud Platinum Sponsor for the 2016 Vermont Women’s Fund annual fundraising event. This year’s event focused on Change The Story, a Vermont-based initiative committed to advancing women’s economic security in Vermont. Gravel & Shea has supported the Vermont Women’s Fund for over a decade and is proud to be considered a stakeholder. Click here for more information about the Vermont Women’s Fund and here to view a video about Change The Story.

Landmark anti-SLAPP ruling

Representing the Rutland Herald, Matthew B. Byrne obtained dismissal and the first-ever award of attorneys’ fees by a Vermont state court under Vermont’s anti-SLAPP law. The Vermont General Assembly enacted the anti-SLAPP statute to protect the exercise of First Amendment rights. After the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the claim, the Vermont Superior Court entered an order awarding the Rutland Herald the attorneys’ fees it had incurred in defending the action.

Pauline Law to Begin Term as District Representative for Vermont and Maine for the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division

Beginning on September 1, 2016, Pauline will serve as a District Representative to the governing council of the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. The ABA Young Lawyers Division is the largest young lawyer organization in the world, with over 150,000 members. Pauline will represent both Vermont and Maine as a voting member of the council.

Gravel & Shea First Amendment Lawyer Interviewed on Vermont Public Radio

Bob Hemley, who regularly represents the print media in Vermont, was invited by Vermont Public Radio to share his views about the Burlington Police Chief’s criticism of newspaper publications of stories about a rape at the Vermont District Court in Burlington. The interview aired on the VPR show “All Things Considered” on October 27, 2015. You can listen to the interview here.

The Best Lawyers in America© 2016 Recognizes Gravel & Shea Attorneys

Best Lawyers Award Badge

Gravel & Shea has been top listed for Burlington, Vermont in The Best Lawyers in America® 2016. In addition, 11 of the firm’s attorneys were specifically selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, which is based on an exhaustive and rigorous peer-review survey comprised of more than 6.7 million confidential evaluations by top attorneys in the country. For more than three decades, The Best Lawyers in America lists have earned the respect of the profession, the media, and the public, as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere. Because no fee or purchase is required, being listed in The Best Lawyers in America is considered a significant honor.

Gravel & Shea attorneys who were specifically recognized by Best Lawyers® are:

  • Peter S. Erly – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law; Securities / Capital Markets Law; Securities Regulation
  • Timothy M. Eustace – Litigation – Real Estate
  • Michelle N. Farkas – Real Estate Law
  • Heather Rider Hammond – Employment Law – Management
  • Robert B. Hemley – Bet-the-Company Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Criminal Defense: Non-White-Collar; Criminal Defense: White-Collar; First Amendment Law; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs; Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs; Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs
  • William A. Mason – Corporate Governance Law; Corporate Law
  • Margaret L. Montgomery – Corporate Law; Mergers and Acquisitions Law
  • Jerome F. O’Neill – Commercial Litigation; Criminal Defense: Non-White-Collar; Criminal Defense: White-Collar; Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs
  • Robert F. O’Neill – Commercial Litigation; Criminal Defense: Non-White-Collar; Criminal Defense: White-Collar
  • Robert H. Rushford – Real Estate Law
  • Norman Williams – Appellate Practice; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs

Gravel & Shea Announces 2015 Super Lawyers®

Super Lawyers 2015

Gravel & Shea is proud to announce that four of its attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2015 edition of New England Super Lawyers®. In addition, Robert Hemley was once again named as one of the “Top 100 New England Attorneys” in Super Lawyers. Selection is based on a rigorous process of evaluation by peers in a number of categories of professional achievement. Our attorneys and their areas of recognition are as follows:

  • Robert B. Hemley – General Litigation, Personal Injury – General: Plaintiff, Personal Injury – Medical Malpractice: Plaintiff
  • Jerome F. O’Neill – Personal Injury – General: Plaintiff, Personal Injury – Products: Plaintiff, General Litigation
  • Robert F. O’Neill – Personal Injury – Medical Malpractice: Plaintiff, Family Law, Criminal Defense
  • Ethan B. McLaughlin (“Rising Star”) – Business/Corporate, Energy & Natural Resources, Mergers & Acquisitions